Debunking Carbon Monoxide Myths

Over the last several decades, we have all become aware of the dangers of carbon dioxide inside buildings. Yet, even though virtually all home have detectors installed that can sense high levels of this gas, carbon monoxide myths still persist, leading to potentially unsafe conditions.

The nature of this deadly gas, which is always present in the atmosphere in small amounts, can be severely misunderstood. For example, many individuals think you can smell and taste carbon monoxide, however, it is odorless, colorless and tasteless. When people indicate that they can smell it, what they are really smelling is the byproduct of a fuel that is burning, which can also produce a taste in the mouth.

Carbon monoxide is always present in the atmosphere, even though some people believe that it is only produced when fuel is burned in a furnace, fireplace or similar device. The human body needs a tiny amount of CO to function, is efficient at getting rid of some excess and even has the ability to function properly when there are higher concentrations of the gas during short durations in winter when buildings are closed tightly due to weather.

Many people also think that CO detectors are prone to giving false alarms. While that was true with the first generation of these devices, such is no longer the case. If your alarm goes off, call your local fire department and have them check the levels. Usually when this happens, something has occurred to spike the CO in your home and the reading will be normal when they arrive, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Never handle carbon monoxide emergencies and fire emergencies in the same manner. Fires happen quickly and double in size every 30 seconds. Although CO levels may seem to rise quickly, it’s usually something that happens slowly over time. Many detectors have a alert mode and a warning mode. With the former, a problem may be in the offing. Investigate and open windows. When the warning goes off, leave the house and call for help. Know the difference and realize that you are never able to detect carbon monoxide on your own.